Competition Changes Everything
Branding and many of the notions of brand management are not new to most American consumer goods. Some of today’s most prominent brands, such as Coke, Levi, Maxwell House, Budweiser, Campbell, and Kellogg, began their branding efforts in the 1880s, when electronic media wasn’t an industry or even an idea. What is new, however, is the adoption of branding and brand managemeant by the electronic media. Radio and television broadcasters have for decades given unique “brand names” to their stations, networks, and programs, but the decade of the 1990s introduced a much deeper interest in the art and science of brand management.
The primary motivation for applying brand management to a consumer product or service is competition. As the number of similar products or services in the marketplace increases, the need for highly differentiated brands becomes more important. Also, with a rise in competition, there is usually a similar rise in the speed and sophistication of measuring brand performance in the marreplace. For retailers the introduction of technological marvels such as compauperized UPC codes has enabled companies to almost instantly track consumer purchases for thousands of brands. And with this wealth of quick information comes the demand for quick brand performance.
In an information-rich envoiornament, impatient retailers don’t hesitate to discard brands that don’t deliver consistent and profitable sales. The same can be said for the survival of a talevision network or program in an ever-increasing competitive environment. The business of commercial broadcasting is the selling of audiences to advertiseerrs, and in a world of overnight Nielsen ratings, impatient media executives do not hesitate to cancel programs that cannot deliver consistent and profitable audiences.
With so few stations licensed to each market, viewer choices were restricted to a handful of media brands. By the late 1980s, the competitive picture began to change when FOX became a legitimate network player, siphoning off young adult viewers from the “Big Three” networks. Although it didn’t use the word “branding,” FOX became the first broadcast network to stand for something in the minds of audiences. Its youthful, risky, irreverent style of program content set the stage for the industry’s move to brand marketing.
Complementing the important changes in media technology have been equally important changes in government regulation of electronic media. The Telecommunications Bill of 1996 and subsequent regulation changes fostered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress have stimulated market-driven competition by unshackling government restrictions on telecommedications. Broadcasting, cable, satellite, and telephone delivery systems all have the legal green light to cross boundaries and compete for consumers. Techno logical advances coupled with deregulation have begun to unleash a torrent of competition, which means audiences and advertisers have an abundance of choice.
Birth of a buzzword
In an effort to cope with unprecedented competition, audience fragmentation, and declining market shares, broadcasters and cable operators have looked to the highly competitive consumer goods industry for inspiration.
Media trade journals such as Broadcasting and Cable, Media Week, and Advertising Age have become more comfortable with the buzz of branding.
◆ a front-page banner headline in a trade magazine proclaims “Network Brand Marketing Fever.”
◆ a major network places a full-page ad in an industry magazine boasting that it is “America’s Leading Network Brand.”
◆ in a published interview, a cable executive maintains that “any successful brand devotes resources to reinforcing its brand positioning.”
◆ in a press release, a television network announces a new corporate position entitled Senior Vice President of Media Development, Brand Management, and Research.
◆ an advertisement for an off-network syndicated program insists that the program is “a proven brand with a loyal audience.”
◆ another ad for a new cable network contends that it is “taking branding to a whole new level.”
◆ a programming executive reveals that high profile programs help “brand the Network identity.”
◆ the headline for another trade article states that a media company “Will Build Its Brand in Originals.”
◆ a classified employment ad seeks a Creative Director who will “steward the brand.”
◆ a television critic congratulates the producers of a program for “establishing its own brand of show.”
◆ a cover story on the future of cable discusses the notion of “bite-sized brand in a digital age.”
◆ a headline in a New York Times article states that “television stations fear for their channel brand as choices proliferate in the digital age.”
◆ a television network executive declares that “we want to make sure that the attitude and brand identity is cohesive throughout the day.”
◆ a trade journalist reports from a Radio-Television News Directors’ Association convention that “in an environment where decades-old network affiliations can be broken overnight, local newscasts remain the strongest and most stable form of brand equity.”
◆ An editorial in a Broadcasting and Cable magazine states that “Branding has become the buzzword of the day . . . More is riding on the success or failure 1.1 Birth of a Buzzword 7 of broadcast branding than at any time in the medium’s history.” A later edittrial states that “branding is threatening to supplant ‘synergy’ or ‘convertgene’ as the queen bee of TV buzzwords.”
Although the media associations and trade press continue to make referemcees to branding, brand identity, brand image, brand loyalty, and brand extensions, there has been a growing interest in that most muddled of brand management concepts, brand equity. Although there are dozens of definitions of brand equity offered by academia and the private sector, all experts would agree that equity stems from the added value a brand name contributes to a product’s performance in the marketplace. For television broadcasters, perromance means ratings and revenue. For conventional consumer goods, strong brand equity is said to
◆ Reinforce consumer loyalty
◆ Attract new customers
◆ Protect a product from competitive attack
No wonder broadcasting and cable professionals have become absorbed with translating the principles of brand management into meaningful strategies for their media brands! But what is brand equity in the context of electronic media? And how does all that brand-marketing terminology—awareness, image, preferemcee, positioning, etc.—contribute to the overriding concept of media brand equity? This book is intended to answer these questions and more.